culture

Identifying Risks and Avoiding a Toxic Culture

By Paul Sarvadi

Toxic workplaces have become a disturbingly common story in the news. Employees report being harassed, mistreated and threatened. The Me Too movement has increased awareness of how widespread and entrenched these problems are in companies large and small. GM, Tesla, NBC, Uber, and Google are just some of the names of companies appearing in the news for responding too late to cultural issues in their workplace.

Lack of support from company leadership, whether real or perceived, has a compounding impact on company morale and employee engagement (see: productivity). Negligence on the leadership’s part also drives many to ultimately leave or seek redress in the courts. All of this damages the employee and the company brand to say nothing of the increased liability for the corporation.

No one sets out to create a toxic culture. Entrepreneurs and corporate leaders start with a vision, identifying pain points and potential solutions. However, as they set out to scale the company and focus on growing sales, operational efficiencies, and technology integrations, they may lose their focus on their employees and inappropriate behaviors emerge.

So, how do you prevent your company from ending up on the nightly news or in court?

At Insperity, when our clients ask these questions, we first help them to identify their company’s vision. We help our clients gain clarity around where the business is going and the critical role that their employees play. We help leaders create alignment between business goals and company culture. We ask them to consider things such as: Do all managers consistently “walk the walk?” Do managers foster a collaborative environment? Does leadership check in regularly with all employees through formal and informal channels—through culture surveys and other performance tools? Does management respond quickly and visibly to employee concerns? Has leadership created healthy two-way transparency within the organization?

Additionally, are there processes and/or checks and balances in place for quickly identifying risks?

One of Insperity’s core beliefs is valuing the worth of the individual. Valuing employees is not only the right thing to do, but it also minimizes employer-related risks, as many employee concerns originate from feeling disconnected and mistreated. We advise our clients to provide liability-management training for supervisors and employees. This should include anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training as well as conflict resolution training. Managers can increase employee engagement by fostering open dialogue and frequently recognizing them for their work. Leadership can build trust by responding promptly to employee concerns. Leadership also creates additional employee engagement when they create transparency around company objectives and long-term goals.

Avoiding a toxic culture is challenging, but allowing a toxic culture creates far greater issues. The time spent aligning your culture to one where employees are valued and elevated will yield many positive rewards; employees will be more engaged and focused on their work; the company’s risk profile will improve, and talent retention and talent recruitment will increase and ultimately the company will be more profitable. Challenge yourself to create a company that rises above the issues that plague so many businesses, a company worthy of great people.

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